CHICAGO — Running in one of the world's coldest places over six days made Edna Vazquez think of her childhood in balmy Monterrey, Mexico.
Vazquez, 35 of Bridgeport, recently finished the 202-kilometer "The Last Desert" race in Antarctica. Over six days and more than 47 hours, the veteran ultrarunner ran on six islands in unforgiving Antarctic weather. The high-wind, 20-below conditions at times made Vazquez feel like she was running on Chicago's Lakefront Trail in the dead of winter.
Her finishing "The Last Desert" event enabled Vazquez to become the first Mexican American man or woman to complete the "4 Deserts Challenge." She previously finished multi-hundred-kilometer races in Chile (Atacama Crossing), China (Gobi March) and Namibia (Sahara Race).
"From my perspective, these races have shown me how much ability as humans that we have," Vazquez said. "When I'm running, I have the freedom to dream and the freedom to love. I say I feel like a child in Mexico, just running and jumping."
Vazquez said the Antarctica race was "the roughest thing I've ever run." Runners slept on a ship docked off shore. One of the six running days was canceled due to blinding winds. At times during the six-day event, she lost track of the runner in front of her, but she was able to keep up by running in someone else's steps.
"Edna was the first Mexican American to complete the series, and hopefully she'll inspire others to take part," Gadams said. "Edna accomplished what most would deem impossible, and she did the whole 4 Deserts Race Series with a smile on her face."
Vazquez has lived in Chicago for 10 years. She met her husband, fellow ultrarunner Jeff Lung, while running with a club in 2013. Lung accompanied Vazquez to the Gobi Desert in 2015 to volunteer in the race and said "it was probably the most challenging week of my life and I wasn't even running."
"It started with a snowstorm in the mountains and finished with a sandstorm in the desert," said Lung, who has completed several 100- and 50-mile races. "It was amazing to see her run, and that's one of the reasons I married her because we're both very adventurous and we push ourselves to the limit."
Vazquez said she's always looking for the next extreme race because "they lead to the best times of my life."
"There's a medley between life and running," she said. "I have fears, but I put them aside when I'm running. I find myself and find the freedom to live, wherever it takes me."
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